Yet more information on Aughey's "Peace Society"
- From the website: http://www.geocities.com/przed/doubt
If I had known what lay in store for me that day as I limped into La
Grange, Tennessee, I may just have turned north and kept on walking
until I hit the Canadian border. Come to think of it, I did do that,
eventually, but that comes later in the story.
Or perhaps I wouldn't have walked away. Perhaps I would have stayed:
deliberately put myself through all the pain, physical and otherwise,
that befell me.
It's a moot point, anyway, since I didn't know what was going to
happen and I couldn't have known to avoid it.
But I should go back to the beginning, walking into La Grange,
footsore and aching and more tired than I'd ever been in all my
thirty-one years. Not that I'd intended to walk all the way from
Atlanta, but when a troop of Confederate soldiers stops you at
gunpoint and asks if they could please have your mount, you tend not
to argue with them. You especially don't argue with them if you're on
your way to defect to the Union and you want to avoid having them ask
about why you're traveling on a course that will take you towards the
No, that's not right. I wasn't exactly defecting, since I'd never
considered the Confederate cause my own. I'd merely been born in the
South and lived there most of my life, but I was far from a
secessionist. I'd also always had a repugnance for the practice of
owning other human beings. My family had neither the wealth nor the
inclination to indulge in the practice and for that I had always been
When the war came, I stayed out of the army not difficult when
you're nearly thirty years old and an actor and joined the Peace
Society, a group of like-minded Northern sympathizers. The Society
didn't allow for too much active struggle against the Confederacy.
Meetings tended to consist of various members drinking whisky and
making grand plans to defeat Jefferson Davis and his forces, but it
was better than nothing. No, that's not entirely fair. Some members
of the Peace Society did more than talk. We helped runaway slaves get
to the North and aided escaped Union prisoners of war in returning to
their units. But such opportunities arose rarely.
After two years of war, I'd had enough of hearing about long, bloody
battles second hand. I was sick of biting my tongue whenever a
Southern gentleman proclaimed it was his God-given right to own
Negroes and how dare the damn Yankees try to take that right away. I
was sick of not standing up openly for my convictions.
Which was why at the end of March, 1863, I found myself leaving
everything I knew in Atlanta, Georgia and taking to the road in
search of a Union regiment that could use an able and willing man.
And how in early April of that same year I arrived in La Grange,
ready to offer my services to Colonel Benjamin Grierson, commander of
the 6th Illinois Volunteer Cavalry.
Not that I was able to do anything of the sort that first day I
arrived. I was tired and sore and filthy with the dust of the road.
The pickets I encountered were kind enough not to shoot me, heard my
story out, then turned me over to their commanding officer, an
understanding lieutenant who was gracious and kind to a defecting
Southerner. The lieutenant made sure I had a hot meal, a cup of
coffee and a place to lay my head that night. I could only mumble my
thanks, eat my food and fall into immediate oblivion, secure in the
knowledge that fate had somehow steered me in the right direction.
I woke the next morning refreshed and optimistic. I brushed off my
clothes as best I could, washed my face in a basin of cold water and
readied myself to make my case. I have no doubt that I still looked
like something the cat had dragged in and abandoned as a bad bet, but
I felt like a respectable human being again. I hoped I looked like
someone who could be trusted by the head of a Union cavalry unit.
After a breakfast of hard tack and coffee simple fare but it tasted
grand I was shown to Colonel Grierson's tent. Grierson was a
surprisingly gentle looking man with a remarkable beard. He politely
listened to my story and read the letter of introduction I had from a
high ranking member of the Peace Society. I'm sure he had more
pressing matters waiting for him than the fate of a single Southern
defector, but he patiently heard me out, then asked about my skills.
Fortunately I'm a damn fine shot with rifle and pistol and I can ride
decently, though I'm not as fond of horses as some I know. But the
thing that really caught Grierson's attention was the fact that I had
been all over the South as a member of a traveling theater company.
He leaned forward when I mentioned that.
"Do you know Mississippi, sir?" he asked, a spark lighting up his
"Almost as well as Georgia," I responded," and I know Georgia like
the back of my own hand."
The answer seemed to satisfy him. He sat back in his chair and
smiled, then looked over at the officer to his left side.
"Well, William, do you think you can use him?"
"I might just, Ben. I might just. If he's as good as he says he is."
- --- In civilwarwest@y..., "slippymississippi"
> From the website: http://www.geocities.com/przed/doubtOH DEAR LORD! =) Scratch that one... it's some kinda gay Harlequin
Oh the wonders of this here internet thingy...
- Okay, this doc may be a bit more relevant and certainly less racy:
In the course of the year further evidence was collected which
satisfied the secret service of the existence of a mysterious and
nameless society which had ramifications throughout Tennessee,
Alabama, and Georgia. A detective who joined this "Peace Society," as
it was called, for the purpose of betraying its secrets, had
marvelous tales to tell of confidential information given to him by
members, of how Missionary Ridge had been lost and Vicksburg had
surrendered through the machinations of this society.*
* What classes were represented in these organizations it is
difficult if not impossible to determine. They seem to have been
involved in the singular "peace movement" which is yet to be
considered. This fact gives a possible clue to the problem of their
membership. A suspiciously large number of the "peace" men were
original anti-secessionists, and though many, perhaps most, of these
who opposed secession became loyal servants of the Confederacy,
historians may have jumped too quickly to the assumption that the
sincerity of all of these men was above reproach.